Monday, 29 December 2014

Operation Clawback - January

I've never really been one for resolutions. I think committing to something for the next 365 days kind of sets you up for failure. What happens if you miss a gym session, have a birthday blow out, or spend more than necessary? Usually you just stop there, the resolution is broken, there's no point to continue.

I'm going to set myself "Challenges" instead. Each month I'm going to set myself a handful of challenges with the aim of becoming healthier; physically, mentally and financially. I'll update mid month and review and set any new challenges at the end of the month.

JANUARY CHALLENGES

Physical

Take 10 minutes each day to update My Fitness Pal
Use my Fitbit to monitor my daily activity - if the weather is dry, my lunchtime priority will be a 30 minute walk
Try two different classes at the gym

Mental

Use my blog as a record of my day to day life, writing from the heart rather than for stats or opportunities
Do at least three things for charity such as donating old clothes

Financial

Plan weekly shopping lists to reduce midweek emergency food runs to Waitrose!
Try to spend less than £50 per week on fuel and incidental buys

You can see that I'm trying to stay away from the "lose a stone", "give up drinking" type challenges. Hopefully the things that I have set myself will encourage these statements to happen naturally.

To succeed in this I need motivation; perhaps a holiday or a new wardrobe of clothes?

No - There's a much bigger aim in my life that these little things should help.

I want to be a mother. To give us the best possible chance I need to be physically and mentally healthy and financially secure. Hopefully I will become pregnant naturally and will progress free of complications. But if this doesn't happen I need to know that I've done everything in my power and be in the best possible position to move forward.

What are your January challenges, what's your motivation?

Time to be in the Kitchen...Lamb Massaman Curry

Every so often I get bored of the same week night meals that see us through Winter. As great as casseroles and pies are sometimes I fancy something fresher to eat. This mild lamb curry is perfect for that evening when you need something easy, and tasty enough to waken those tastebuds. There is quite a bit of simmering time, but it's this time that gives the gorgeously thick sauce a chance to form. Start it when you get home from work, or after the school run and it will be ready in a couple of hours.

Try to make the effort to find these ingredients, I found everything that I needed in my local Tesco supermarket. The result is a fragrant curry, with no one taste being dominant.

LAMB MASSAMAN CURRY - serves 6

750g lamb (I used pre cut casserole pieces, the original recipe suggested neck fillets)
6 floury potatoes

2 red onions
2 garlic cloves
2 sticks fresh lemongrass
50g fresh ginger
3 red chillies, or 3 tsp fresh chilli paste
6 dried lime leaves
40g tamarind paste
6 cardamon pods
100ml peanut oil

2tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground coriander
2tsp cumin seeds

200ml water
100g cashew nuts
2 chicken stock cubes
60g palm sugar (found in the Thai section at the supermarket)
400ml unsweetened coconut milk
75ml fish sauce

Fresh coriander 

Dice the lamb if needed, peel and dice the potatoes and set aside.

Dice the onion and garlic, crush the lemongrass with the back of a knife then chop finely. Peel & grate the ginger, deseed and finely chop the chillies, de-stem the lime leaves and chop finely. Chop half the nuts and crush the cardamon pods. 

Colour the lamb in a wok and set aside in a bowl.

In a large saucepan dry fry the dried spices (turmeric, ground coriander & cumin seeds) for 1 minute then add half the oil and mix together. Add the onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chillies, lime leaves and tamarind paste and cook for 3 minutes.

Boil 200ml of water and dissolve the stock cubes. Add this to the saucepan, along with half the cashew nuts, palm sugar, coconut milk, the remaining peanut oil, fish sauce and the lamb.

Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and cook again for a further 45 minutes. Finish the dish with the remaining nuts and some chopped coriander. 

Serve with boiled rice and naan breads.




Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Countdown...

After a brief but lovely visit home to Cornwall at the weekend to swop presents and celebrate my auntie's *whispers* 60th birthday, we're back into the joy of the last full working week before Christmas.

This is quite possibly the most frustratingly slow week. Christmas is just around the corner, plans of parties and Christmas catch ups are being made and it would be so much easier to fit everything in if we just didn't have to work...sadly we do, so starts the impossible task of fitting all the little jobs in!

Luckily we've both got next Monday off, but as we are at a boozy lunch on Sunday, that's bound to turn into a boozy evening. I'm not convinced that Monday will be the most productive of days off. Therefore I have come up with the To-Do-List to end all to do lists, my aim is to tick one or two tasks off each day between now and the 23rd December - leaving the house, and us, ready and relaxed for Christmas Eve.

Feel free to use my list as a memo for yourselves!!

Carrie's Christmas Job List:
  • Wrap presents and sort into home, Sister-In-Law's & Brother's piles for opening locations!
  • Write, post & hand deliver Christmas cards (18th Dec for 2nd class, 20th Dec for 1st class)
  • Clean & decorate conservatory (decorations, not paint - I'm not that bad!!)
  • Clear two spare bedrooms and make them ready for guests over Christmas
  • General food shop
  • Special food shop - chestnuts, shell on nuts, spirits for cocktails, posh cheese, posh chocolates
  • Pick up Christmas duck & ham from butchers
  • Slow cook ham
  • Bake sausage rolls, mini meat pies, Christmas tarts
  • Bake & decorate Yule log
  • Take all spare boxes & packaging to the recycling centre to free up bins over Christmas
  • House winter clean - kitchen, bathroom, hall, bedrooms
It's a lot to try to get done in only a day or two, but I think it's achievable if I just do one thing at a time.

What Christmas jobs do you always leave to last?

Linking up with 
#TinselTuesday, hosted by Farmers Wife & Mummy

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Craft - Santa's Grotto

As a child I loved making shoebox theatres and scenes. I loved Arts & Crafts at school, and was happiest cutting up endless bits of paper - especially if they were special wavy bladed scissors!!

As time has passed I stopped drawing and creating, preferring instead to create things that I could also eat! But when I was asked to take part in Mobile Mini Christmas Bloggers challenge, my craft antennae was raised!

First to Pinterest where I quickly spent a few extra long lunch hours *ahem* looking for grotto ideas - this is what I came up with

Follow Carrie's board Grotto Ideas on Pinterest.

Lots of snow, wood and a warm, cosy cabin for Santa to sit in. Knowing that a Storage container would naturally be dark meant that I would need to think about lighting. I instantly know that I would choose blue lighting, to mimic that Wintery evening light.

Using a plan with the dimensions of a typical storage container, the next stage was to show the man points of my Grotto theme. After a quick trip to Hobbycraft to stock up on supplies this was what I came up with.


 


But it didn't really show the ideas I had - I wanted to try to bring them more to life. Luckily, I work in a building that has boxes - lots of them! Finding the prefect sized box meant I could set to work, building my own miniature Santa's Grotto.

First, the walls, roof and floor were covered in felt.

Then I made the cabin out of cardboard and used foraged twigs to build up the side wall to mimic a log cabin. My cosy fireplace scene was stuck to the back of the cabin and the roof was covered with white felt.


Next I built on the woodland, outdoors theme by building my banks on "snow" using filling and making "trees" from real conifer trees.

Finally I added little touches, such as seating for Santa and any little visitors, a big Christmas tree and presents leading the way to his cabin.

 
 


And as my final surprise and flourish - the lighting...

Using scissors I punched 50 holes into the lid of my grotto box and then a LED light into each one. (This method is not recommended - I cut my finger straight away!!) This gave exactly the effect that I wanted. 


My grotto is complete! If I had more time, I would live to have made little signs and lanterns to light the footpath to the cabin. I would also make the cabin completely out of wood - unfortunately time and family commitments meant I couldn't quite do everything I wanted, but we'll be keeping our Christmas box scene all over the holiday season.

This would be a really good Christmas holiday project for a family to do  - any sized box can be used, a shoebox is always a good starting project.

I'm entering my Grotto into Mobile Mini's Christmas competition, along with other Interior Design, Craft and Lifestyle bloggers - wish me luck!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Biscotti





Back in November I spent a beautifully sunny day visiting the poppies at the Tower of London. I was actually up in the Big Smoke to visit Maria Mayerhofer who runs her own baking school Bake With Maria in Hampstead. She was holding a little Christmas party along with Victoria Eggs, a homeware designer.

As soon as I walked into the room I was hit with the scent of mulled wine, cooking away on the hob and the sight of so many little Christmas delicacies like these -



It wasn't all kicking back and relaxing though. Maria soon had four of us at the benches making traditional biscotti. Whenever I've made biscotti in the past they always came out small and dense. Maria showed me that the dough needs to be looser and sticky, this will spread better on the tray to give the traditional wide looking biscuits. I'll be honest, it was only the thought of Sion waiting patiently at home, that stopped me eating all my little biscuits on the train home!

It was these biscotti that I decided to bake once my cold had subsided enough this week. The basic "Cantuccini" recipe was kindly given to us by Maria although I used roughly chopped orange flavoured chocolate  brazil nuts for that festive flavour, you can add whatever fruit, nuts & chocolate you like. Note - I'm not sure of the difference between cantuccini & biscotti, I just know them as biscotti!

Ingredients

300g Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
Pinch of salt
200g golden sugar
1 tsp orange zest (I used one large orange)
50g roughly chopped nuts
50g chopped chocolate
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat your oven to 190C

Sift the flour, bicarb & salt into a large bowl. Carefully mix in the sugar, zest, nuts & chocolate.
Make a small well and add the two eggs. Using a fork gather the dry ingredients into the egg to make a soft dough that you can just handle. If it is too wet add a little more flour, if too dry add a little milk.

Shape into 3 long sausage shapes about 4cm wide and 1 cm thick and place onto a lined baking sheet with space around them to rise and spread. Brush with an egg wash and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Take out of the oven and carefully transfer each log to a chopping board. Using a serrated knife cut each log diagonally into 1-2cm slices. Spread the biscuits out onto the baking tray and put back into the oven to "dry" for a further 10 minutes.


I decided to serve my biscotti alongside a grown ups ice-cream sundae, using my new ice cream sundae dishes from BuyCatering.com.


What made it grown up?

Limited Edition Haagen-Daz vanilla & Florentine ice cream, crumbled almond thin biscuits, chopped 70% dark chocolate & segments of satsumas...layer upon layer. All that was missing was a little shot of Cointreau to really set it off. Not to worry - I also brought a tub of Bailey's ice cream...and I know we've got a bottle of that. I'm pretty sure if alcohol is used in cooking it doesn't count against the "no mid week drinking" rule?!


A full timetable of Bake With Maria classes can be found on her website

I was kindly sent a complimentary set of sundae dishes, currently retailing on BUYCATERING.com for £19.95 + VAT


Linking up with 

#TinselTuesday, hosted by Farmers Wife & Mummy

and

#CookBlogShare

and
  
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Monday, 8 December 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...






Despite being visited by the dreaded Christmas Cold Fairy we ploughed ahead with our weekend plans of bringing Christmas into our home.

Saturday was spent in London having a lovely (but very busy) day at Winter Wonderland, followed by a slap up dinner and Champagne ride on the London Eye. I think it was a bit too much for me though and I spent most of the train ride home asleep, waking only to blow my nose or cough pitifully! An early night sorted me out though and we were up bright and early to go on our Christmas tree hunt.

Last year we had an artificial one that sat on our coffee table, this year we decided to go all out and buy a real one. This one came cut, with a large log to act as it's base. The seller assured us that we won't need to water it, but I'm not so sure.

I decorated it with an "anything goes" theme, beading, glass ornaments, wooden ornaments and felt ornaments. The general colour theme was white and red, although I purposely chose decorations I liked rather than ones that matched ones we already had. Topped with our special Cornish Fairy the lights were switched on to oohs and aahs!

 
 
While I took control of the inside of the house, Sion was in charge of lighting the outside. We were sent these 3m cluster lights from the LED Hut. As they are safe to use indoors and outdoors, we choose to put them outside. They came with a super long 5m cable which easily reached back through the window and down to the plug socket on an adjoining wall. With 280 lights gently twinkling, the effect was beautiful. 


We finished off by decorating the window with some re-usable stickers and some snow stencils, I don't think there's any doubt now that we are a Christmas loving household!



All that's left to do now is to decorate our conservatory ready for Christmas day and to decide on our Christmas table decorations. Christmas tablecloths are so expensive though so I'm thinking of maybe using a white sheet instead and decorating with star confetti & glitter...you've got to have glitter at Christmas!!
 
We were kindly sent a complimentary set of 3m LED cluster lights from The LED Hut. A full range of Christmas lights are still available to purchase. Currently you can get your purchases VAT free by using the code VATFREE at checkout.
 
All thoughts and opinions remain my own.


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Getting into the Yuletile Spirit...

As an accountant I don't get much opportunity to be creative. I think that's why I like baking so much. It gives me the chance to make something from scratch that gives enjoyment to myself and others.

The run up to Christmas is an especially creative time. I hand stamped my own wrapping paper last year and want to make a few gifts this year.

I was asked if I would like to take part in Topps Tiles' Yuletile Greetings Christmas campaign, and when I heard it would involve getting crafty I thought it would be a perfect thing to work on slowly in the evenings.

I was sent a plain white tile and lots of lovely paints & brushes to come up with my masterpiece *cough* and this is what I made...


My first thoughts were to go with a traditional 12 days of Christmas theme and I carefully measured out my boxes ready to put my designs into. I quickly realised that my artistic talents were limited and that my partridge, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, geese & swans all looked exactly the same and there was no way I would be able to fit all the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies and maids into my little boxes...a new theme was needed - quickly!!

I came up with our personalised 12 Days of Christmas. In no particular order these little pictures are snippets of what I hope our Christmas this year will be like;

Our favourite foods prepared by all of us, ready to be enjoyed.
Stockings to be opened while still in bed on Christmas morning
Frosty days perfect for woodland walks
Gingerbread men fresh from the oven with a big mug of hot chocolate
Our first real Christmas tree, probably way to big for our little living room, decorated with new decorations
A special posh scented candle, saved ready for Christmas
And a real hope from snow, just a sprinkling to give Christmas that magical air...

Most of the pictures were outlined using ceramic pens and filled in with ceramic paints. Once the base layer had dried I went over it with any top colours like the white dots on the Christmas pudding. I was sent 6 different colours of paint so if I needed a colour outside of these I mixed them in a little tray before using.

I finished the tile by writing Christmas 14 in fairy lights. Fairy lights are the epiphany of Christmas to me, delicate, sparkly, magical.

 

I know this tile isn't going to win the Turner prize, my holly leaves are not quite perfect and it looks childlike - but isn't that what's good about Christmas? It's a time for us to all forget about work for a day or two and allow ourselves to remember the childlike pleasures of playing with new gifts, eating chocolate for breakfast and staying up late. It's a time for imperfection - who cares if lunch is later than you expected, or if you want to wear PJs all day?

Christmas for me is a time to gather together all that you love and enjoy, to remember past Christmas' and look forward to future ones - maybe we should all paint a family Christmas tile?

This post is an entry into Topps Tiles' Yuletile Greetings Christmas campaign. I was sent the tile & craft products free of charge.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Great Christmas Clear out...

Welcome to our spare room of doom...


We are lucky to have a second reception room. When we moved in we had plans to make it our quiet reading room, with a sofa bed for the occasional overnight guest. It quickly turned into a dumping ground for luggage, paperwork, spare bedding and Christmas presents.

When my nephew came toddling into the other room carrying a tube of wrapping paper (that had been right next to his unwrapped Christmas presents) I knew it was time to a pre-Christmas tidy up.

Luckily I was recently sent a selection of packing boxes and tape from Eco Movers which gave me the incentive and storage space, to start clearing the decks.

I made up three archive boxes, one for Sion, one for myself and a joint one in a matter of seconds and started filling them with the paperwork that was sitting on the coffee table and shelf. 



The bedding was vac-packed and stored under the stairs, along with our overnight bags. Underneath the bedding I found a big bag of books, too heavy for me to lift. I made up two small boxes and transferred the books into them. They can now be easily stacked on top of each other or stored in separate places.

Finally I gave everything a quick polish and wipe over and re-arranged some of Sion's wooden figures.


One hour of tidying has got our room back. Admittedly we still have boxes in there but they can be easily sorted through and filed away properly. The boxes are collapsible and reusable so we can just store them until they are next needed.

Eco Movers have lots of packing boxes and discounted ready packs that you can use to help get your home ready for Christmas stating from £1.30 + VAT. Next on the list for me is to wrap some Christmas presents and box them up ready for each location - Cornwall, Northampton & Southampton...just in case more little hands and eyes come round exploring!

Next week we will be deciding on the type of tree to buy and our decorations colour scheme...decisions, decisions, decisions!!

I was sent a selection of boxes and packaging tape for the purposes of this post. All words and opinions remain my own.


Linking up with 

#TinselTuesday, hosted by Farmers Wife & Mummy


and
Family Fever

Monday, 24 November 2014

"Streets of London"

Last week I took a days holiday from the joys of accounting and headed up to London. I had been invited to a Christmas get together, organised by Bake With Maria and Victoria Eggs (separate post to follow) and decided to take the day to have a leisurely day in the city before the Christmas shoppers start to visit en masse.

My train finishes at Waterloo so I had a loose plan to walk along the Southbank, stopping off at Borough Market, before heading on to see the poppies at Tower Bridge and finishing in one of the great museums London has to offer.

It was one of those beautiful, bright Autumnal mornings, arriving into London at 10.30 meant the crowds had not quite materialised yet. In actual fact I got quite a few shots with no-one else in them, especially around the London Eye...



Further along the Southbank I watched a man make huge bubbles for children to pop...



And I found this little fellow by The Globe Theatre...



A quick detour into Borough Market brought me my lunch of traditional Pie & Mash (yum!) and huge foodie envy looking at the stands that were open for trading...




Feeling decidedly full I needed to get a bit of a march on to make it over Tower Bridge and to the Remembrance Poppies. This was the busiest part of London with crowds of people all around the Tower. But it was also one of the quietest areas, people lost in thought, maybe saying little prayers of thanks. Everyone subtly moving to allow a photograph or two to be taken. I felt so privileged to have seen them before they were all picked and sent away. The sheer scale of the installation was incredible, even with half of the poppies already collected. I walked the whole perimeter before heading on to my final port of call..





I've never been to the British Museum, but as soon as I stepped inside the Atrium my breath was taken away. Picking up a map, I decided to focus on the Egyptian rooms. The mummies looked pretty scary and I was amazed there were so many, even pets were mummified - I felt a bit disrespectful taking photographs of mummies so just took a few of the different artifacts instead...





And then before I knew it, it was 4pm and time to head up to North West London for Christmas food and chats...but that's a whole different post...


Joining in this week with Magic Moments and What's the Story?



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen...Bakewell Tarts




I'm on a mission to free the world of dried fruit baked goods this Christmas. I can't really say what it is about dried fruit that I don't like...maybe the heaviness of the associated bakes, maybe the cloying sweetness. All I know is that this week I'm taking a stand and saying "no" to mince pies.

My alternative is a take on the Bakewell tart, made festive with the addition of mulled fruit Mackays jam and silver stars instead of the more traditional glace cherry. Feel free to change your jam to any of your choosing. I'm planning a chocolate pastry version with an orange marmalade base and zest added to the icing for a real festive hit.

The method below produces good flat based tarts, however unless the sides are properly sealed you will get leakage during baking. Make sure to overlap your side strip enough to allow for shrinkage and if in doubt is offcuts to seal your base to your sides before filling. Alternatively cut circles of pastry large enough to cover both the base and sides of your baking tins, pressing well to the moulds to get a good tart shape.

Mini Bakewell Tarts - Recipe adapted from BBC Food

Ingredients

150g Mackays mulled fruit jam

For the pastry
100g butter, chilled & cubed
200g plain flour, sifted
40g icing sugar, sifted
1 medium egg beaten

For the Frangipane
55g butter, chilled & cubed
55g golden caster sugar
1 medium egg beaten
40g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour

For the topping
85g icing sugar
small quantity of cold water
decorations of your choice

To make the pastry rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar then use a blunt knife to cut in the beaten egg. Using your hands bring the mixture together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grease a 12 hole muffin tin. on a floured surface roll out half the pastry to a thickness of approximately 3mm. Using a 5cm round cutter, cut 12 circles to fit into the base of each muffin tin hole. Make the sides by rolling out the remaining pastry and cutting 12 strips approximately 1.5cm wide by 20cm long. Gently press around the sides of each hole of the muffin tin, making sure the edges are sealed to the base.

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3

For the frangipane, beat the ingredients together until they form a smooth, well combined paste.

Prick the bases of the cases with a fork, then place half a teaspoon of jam in each. Top with a teaspoon of the frangipane mixture and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the frangipane is risen & golden. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing topping mix the icing sugar with a few teaspoons of water and mix to form a thick paste. Spread over the tarts and decorate how you like.



I was sent some Mackays marmalade and jam to use in some Christmas recipes free of charge.


Linking up with 

#TinselTuesday, hosted by Farmers Wife & Mummy

and

#CookBlogShare

and
TamingTwins

Friday, 14 November 2014

Impatient

It's been a little while since I took part in Word of the Week, but this week I am definitely

IMPATIENT

I'm impatient for the weekend to start. We have no set plans and it will be lovely to just relax at home and prepare the house for next weekend because...

I'm impatient to see my niece & nephew. They are coming down to spend the weekend with us (with their Mum & Dad!) and I think we are going to head to our first Christmas Market over in Winchester. This is good because...

I'm impatient to start Christmas shopping. I've ordered a few bits & pieces, but after paying for an MOT, Service & new brakes on my car, the bulk of Christmas shopping will need to wait until early December. This will work out nicely though, because...

I'm impatient to spend the weekend in London, visiting Winter Wonderland with Sion's family and heading back to stay in The Tommyfield. We stayed there for my birthday and the staff looked after us so well, we can't wait to return to see them again.

Most of all I'm impatient for Christmas.

Ignore the commercialism of it. Christmas for me is a time to ease back, spend time with loved ones, to laugh, remember and look to the future. It's a time for old films, traditions and arguing over the best chocolates. It's a time for outdoor walks, indoor pub fires and overstuffed bellies. It's a time for gratitude and thanks. It's a time to just be...and I can't wait.

Share with me what you are most impatient for...

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Christmas Marmalade Cake


Confession time...I don't like Christmas cake, mince pies or Christmas pudding. Unless I put my thinking cap on Christmas lunch will turn into an ordinary roast dinner - and that'll never do!
Luckily for me I was recently sent some Christmas Marmalade and Jam from Mackays. This Scottish company was founded in 1938 and are the only remaining producers of the "Dundee Orange Marmalade". You can read their story here. The marmalade was not at all bitter, the cranberries add sweetness to it and I tasted a hint of alcohol, although that could have just been my wishful thinking!





I decided to use both the Marmalade & Jam in some festive bakes. First up Marmalade Cake, a lighter, refreshing alternative to Christmas Cake. This cake does end up being wonderfully sweet and sticky...definitely forks needed to eat this!

Ingredients -

For the Cake

1 heaped tbsp. Mackays Christmas Marmalade with Cranberries
3 large eggs
100g caster sugar
125g light brown sugar
200g butter at room temperate, cut into small pieces
225g self raising flour
2tsp baking powder

For the Icing

250g icing sugar
225g cream cheese
150g butter at room temperate, cut into small pieces
2 heaped tbsp. Mackays Christmas Marmalade with Cranberries

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan, gas 4. Grease & line two sandwich tins (I used 8"/20cm tins).

If you have a food processor add all the cake ingredients into the processor and whizz until well combined.

Alternatively cream the sugars and butter together until light & fluffy. Stir in the marmalade and eggs. Finally fold in the flour & baking powder until well combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins & level out using a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cooked through and a skewer should come out clean.

Remove and leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile combine the cream cheese, butter and marmalade until smooth (I used a hand blender for this). Gradually add the icing sugar until it is all combined. Chill until required.

When the cakes are cooled, use half the icing to sandwich the sponges together then spread the remaining icing on top and decorate however you like.




Next week I will be making a Christmas version of Bakewell Tarts with my Mackays Christmas Jam.

Should you wish to, please pop over to the Mackays website to read about their full range and find your nearest stockist.

I was sent some marmalade and jam to use in some Christmas recipes free of charge.

TamingTwins

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Miracle of Merumaya

OK...time for confession...I do not have a skincare regime. Well actually that's not true, my regime is a quick wash in the shower with whatever face wash happens to be on special offer, followed by a liberal smear of any moisturiser nearby...hand, face, leg - they all do the same, right?!

I could blame it on lack of knowledge but honestly, I just can't be arsed with the 6 step cleanse, steam, polish, tone, serum, moisturise routine we seem to be encourage to do by the big skincare houses. That and the fact that it's bloody expensive!

You can see that I would be a hard sell to even the best skincare specialist and this was put to the test at the recent Southampton Blogger meet up, where a number of skincare brands were in attendance (honestly the only one I had heard of before was Lush! and I started my chat with them with the words "your shop gives me a headache") giving us helpful tips and skin reviews before sending us on our way with lovely gift bags.

My skincare fatigue was soon squashed when I sat with Lekha, of the brand Merumaya. She immediately understood my apathy and rather than making me feel like I was doing my skin a huge disservice, she carefully took me through the ethos of Merumaya's Founder, Maleka Dattu and the complete range of skincare products. The enthusiasm Lekha has for the brand and the experience Maleka brought with her when developing the products, made me sit up and pay attention to everything Lekha showed me.

I was given the Cleansing Balm and Iconic Youth Serum to take away and try out. Two weeks later I am still using the Cleansing Balm as my daily cleanser. Yes, you can use it like a traditional hot cloth cleanser...or you can use it like I do, in the shower, in a matter of minutes. It easily removes all make up (including mascara) and leaves my skin feeling as if it has a layer of goodness still to soak in.  My redness around my nose and cheeks has noticably reduced and I haven't had my usual hormonal breakouts. The Cleansing Balm retails at £14.50 for 100ml, more expensive than the supermarket cleansers, but very reasonable when compared against the elite brands.


I was also given the Iconic Youth Serum to try (£34.50 for 30ml), along with the Exfoliating Peel (£19.50 for 50ml). Just like the cleanser you get incredible feeling skin after using the smallest amount of the serum. It soaks into your skin beautifully and doesn't leave any trace of greasiness or product behind.

I'm going to use the peel as a treat this weekend, but I'm sure I will be just as impressed with this as I have been with the rest of the range.


All Merumaya products can be ordered directly from their website, they are also stocked in John Lewis stores and can be delivered as part of their "Click & Collect" scheme, to multiple Waitrose stores for your convenience.

If like me you don't have the time, money or confidence to invest in a skincare brand I would encourage you to try the Cleansing Balm as a stand alone product first. I'm already earmarking the other products in the range for my Christmas list!

I was given a full sized Melting Cleansing Balm free of charge along with sample sizes of the Iconic Youth Serum and Skin Brightening Exfoliating Peel, however all thoughts and opinions are my own and are un-influenced.

Family Fever